Landon Donovan—Now More Than Ever

Patrick JohnstonCorrespondent IJune 28, 2009

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 28:  Landon Donovan of USA celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Final between USA and Brazil at the Ellis Park Stadium on June 28, 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Venturing into uncharted territory in the Confederations Cup, the US bowed out of the Final with a second half collapse. 


The US capitulation, to the feet of Brazil, was a bittersweet ending to a week in which the world saw a team move from doormat status to party crashers.


Beginning with the miraculous Sunday in which the Americans overcame a six goal deficit to shockingly advance to the semis and unceremoniously dump mighty Spain out of the tourney, the week was the coming out of a national team representing a disinterested nation.


The victory over Spain was the most stunning upset the European Champions had experienced since the English fleet stopped the mighty Spanish Armada in the time of Elizabeth the First. 


Just like the bravery displayed by the sailors of an emerging sea power in 1588, the courage of some of US Soccer’s players portrayed a national side on the ascendancy.


Accolades to Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Onyewu, Demerit and others, but to me, the man of the tournament has to be Landon Donovan.  Anywhere and everywhere, Donovan was the consummate team player and leader of a side that was down and out only a week before its historic encounter with Brazil.


Even in the early matches which saw the US succumb to Italy 3-1 and Brazil 3-0 in the “group of death” matches, Donovan was a shining light in a dismal and dark camp.  Wearing the captain’s arm band, he exhibited the passion, energy and leadership which the US was in short supply of at the tourney’s commencement. 


Handing the band over to Carlos Bocanegra for the match against Egypt, the US took the field, in what appeared for all practical purposes, to close out the schedule and head home for some serious soul searching.


Donovan’s soul would have been easy to find—it was left out on the pitches of South Africa.


While he has been labeled as a sensation or a fraud (depending on who is spoken to) in the past, I dare anyone to say that Landon Donovan is overestimated anymore.


While others garnered personal honors or cemented positions on the US team for 2010, Donovan did something even more substantial—he earned the respect of any knowledgeable fan of the game and showed the world that the US does indeed have a world class player.


Do not be surprised to see him plying his trade on European pitches in the next campaign.